Do you relish the extraordinary feeling of sunlight hitting your skin when you walk outside after being indoors for an extended period of time? Nature, sunlight, clean air, and temperature all have an effect on human emotions and worker productivity.
From michellescotto.com: A traditional office space combined with sustainable, green elements.
Study after study has found this to be true, but honestly, all you need is the feeling of the sun on your skin to know this is the case. Research on employees who work inside sustainably designed, green-certified building has found that workers are happier, healthier, and more productive.
These are the qualities of sustainable design that research has found to increase worker productivity.
Improved Air Quality
A surprising revelation of indoor air quality research is that indoor air often contains more VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds and therefore has a lower air quality than outdoor air. Levels of VOCs indoors have been found to be up to ten times higher than outdoors by the EPA.
One of the solutions to improving indoor air quality is an air purifier, but also to make buildings less air tight. An important aspect of sustainable design is that polluted indoor air can escape outside and cleaner outdoor air can get inside. Avoiding chemicals, products that off-gas VOCs such as carpet glues and plastics, and adding more plants can all improve indoor air quality.
As people breathe, they exhale CO2 which makes indoor air stale. Higher levels of CO2 than oxygen can make workers feel tired and make it more difficult to concentrate. One of the simplest solutions to high levels of CO2 is to add more greenery, which we’ll explore in depth later on.
Increased Air Flow
By increasing ventilation from 20 cubic feet per minute of outdoor air to 40 CBM, productivity per employee increases by $6,500. Simply by increasing the ventilation of outdoor air into your office, you can increase employee productivity and bring in more profit for your company.
From HorizonsOffices: One Airport Square in Accra, Ghana, designed by the sustainability architect Mario Cucinella, has windows that open, in contrast to many traditional offices.
The cost of this increased ventilation pales in comparison to the increased productivity per employee. With an average system, the cost of this increased ventilation is between $14 and $40 per employee, per year. With an energy efficient system, that annual cost per employee goes down to a range of $1 to $18.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers or ASHRAE has defined thermal comfort levels for office workers. They found that lower humidity levels are more comfortable for workers.
New research has found that in addition to being more comfortable, lower humidity helps workers to be more productive. Researchers found that people within the comfort zones as defined by ASHRAE performed 5% better on cognitive tests than those outside the comfort zone.
High levels of humidity also play a role in structural integrity as well is indoor air quality. As materials break down, they release chemicals and toxins into the air. Lower humidity levels can decrease this.
Heightened Natural Light
From TerraMai: The Chicago office of Perkins+Will offers employees natural light.
Research has found increased cognitive function scores and fewer health symptoms in green-certified buildings. One of the qualities these buildings have over traditionally designed buildings is more natural light.
What’s so amazing about adding natural light to a building is the cyclical improvements workers see. More natural light improves sleep. Better sleep improves workers productivity and cognitive test scores. This was especially true in the niche test for crisis response. In green-certified buildings, employees cognitive function in crisis response improved 73%.
From Foliage Design Systems: A green wall adds color and oxygen to an office environment.
If you’re looking for an easy and cost-effective strategy for increasing worker productivity, this is the one. Bringing plant life inside has numerous added benefits. Plants help to increase oxygen levels, reduce humidity, and bring workers closer to nature. All three of these benefits have been shown to uniquely increase productivity.
It’s not just offices and workers who stand to benefit. Sustainable environments improve the quality of life for everyone who inhabits them — an author working on her novel, a senior citizen enjoying a board game, a child in a nursery. Sustainable design is a good idea, regardless of the specific context.
A study from University of Queensland in Australia found that adding plant life to the office increased worker productivity by 15%. Adding natural elements is so simple.
To see improvements, you don’t even have to bring the plants inside. A case study from World Green Building Council’s book, Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices found that the Saint-Gobain’s call center has a 97% increase in sales-generated leads and 101% increase in leads per call because their new office space has 92% of offices with outdoor views and 1.3 miles of walking trails.
From World Green Building Council: The features that make offices greener.
Increased productivity is just one of the many benefits of a sustainably designed workplace.